FANNIN, Ga. — During the Nov. 16, 2021 Blue Ridge City Council meeting, representatives of WAMM Development, LLC sought approval of their planned condominium complex to be located at 200 West First Street.
The biggest issue of the night was whether or not WAMM Development will be allowed to continue with their project. The proposed condo would have a height of 55 feet, 20 feet over the allowed maximum for new buildings in the Central Business District (CBD). The council brought up the height restriction, but representatives for WAMM Development say because the rezoning was approved before the height moratorium, they closed on their property after the moratorium had expired, the city attorney suggested they would be grandfathered in, and they spent significant money on the project, that a claim of detrimental reliance is applicable. On the other hand, the Blue Ridge City Council says the condominium project still falls under the height restriction because the developers should have been aware of the moratorium, the amended ordinance, and known that the city attorney does not have final say for the council.
Claims of miscommunication, convolution of the timeline, and haphazard debates quickly filled the meeting. After over an hour of heated conversation, the council voted to table the approval of plans until their December meeting. The council cited their desire to look over the timeline of events and seek further legal counsel.
Many citizens of Blue Ridge have voiced their support for restrictions on development. For many, especially those in attendance at the meeting, the proposed condominium complex is another example of overdevelopment in the city. Discussion on the issue is bound to make its way through the community, and the Nov. 16 meeting provided little clarity. Using public records and official meeting minutes, FYN has compiled a timeline of important dates surrounding the issue, which will be an important component of the council’s decision on the condominium approval. Ultimately, the decision will be based on legality. Council members Mike Panter and Robbie Cornelius both raised concerns over potential lawsuits if the city denies the approval. The Blue Ridge City Council and WAMM Development representatives will meet again on Dec. 21, 2021 at 5 p.m.
March 3, 2020: Robbman Scott Kiker attends a Blue Ridge Planning Commission meeting where he requests a rezoning for property located at 200 West First St. The planning commission approves the request, with conditions. John Soave makes the motion to apply these conditions: The applicant would have to pay for all water, sewer, road and sidewalk upgrades. The applicant would also have to bring upgrade and permit applications before the City Council for approval. The motion carries, and Chairman Rick Skelton announces a second hearing to take place at the March 10, 2020 City Council meeting.
March 10, 2020: Robbman Scott Kiker attends a city council meeting seeking approval of his rezoning. The council approves the rezoning, as recommended by the planning commission, with a 3-0 vote.
Oct. 20, 2020: The Blue Ridge City Council votes 5-0 to enact a moratorium on CBD buildings over 45 feet tall. The moratorium is set for 120 days, expiring on Feb. 17, 2021.
Feb. 2, 2021: The Blue Ridge Planning Commission is set to discuss zoning changes. Prior to the meeting, the planned change to the ordinance is to reduce maximum CBD building heights from 60 feet to 45 feet. Mark Engledow makes a motion to amend changes, setting a new permanent CBD maximum height of 35 feet. The commission unanimously approves.
Feb. 9, 2021: Project Manager Jeff Stewart speaks at a city council meeting. He recommends that the council approve the changes to Ordinance BR2021-06. The council votes 5-0 to have the city attorney amend the ordinance, and plan for a first and second reading.
March 3, 2021: WAMM Development, LLC acquires the 200 West First St. property.
March 9, 2021: The first reading of the proposed amendments to Ordinance BR2021-06 takes place. Deciding they need more community input, council sets two town halls for March 30, 2021 and April 13, 2021.
March 30, 2021: Town hall meeting takes place.
April 13, 2021: Town hall meeting takes place. A city council meeting follows, where the second reading of the amended Ordinance BR2021-06 is scheduled to take place. The council tables the reading to continue working out details.
June 15, 2021: During a special called meeting, the city council hosts the second reading of amended Ordinance BR2021-06.
June 18, 2021: A letter from the City Clerk notes that Mayor Whitener was presented with amended Ordinance BR2021-06. On June 22, 2021, Mayor Whitener returns the ordinance with intent to veto.
July 6, 2021: A letter from Mayor Whitener recommends the council allow the veto. In this letter she also explains her reason for the veto.
July 13, 2021: The Blue Ridge City Council unanimously overrides Mayor Whitener’s veto.
The city council tackled several issues at their meeting, including $3,000 bonuses for full time city employees.